As a true East Coast girl who had never been to San Francisco before April, I am head-over-heels in love with this city. I haven’t been this smitten since my 6th grade boyfriend asked via email if he could kiss me, with the subject line: URGENT.
All mushiness aside, SF is an eclectic place full of lively neighborhoods and people, all unique in their own ambitious ways. There are always a million things going on, yet no one rushes to do them; this seemingly blasé attitude allows everyone to get their bearings, take maximum advantage, and experience some quality people-watching. Get into the city’s “carpe diem” groove with a few suggestions:
- Start your day with breakfast at Tartine Bakery in the Mission District. Sit outside and savor one of their famous morning buns ($3.95, see recipe below), a never-ending unraveling of cinnamon and orange flakiness. The brew is provided by nearby Four Barrel Coffee, where organic beans are house-roasted with care. They also don’t offer flavors; the coffee is that good (I felt like an ass after asking for a shot of vanilla).
- Visit the farmers’ market at the historic Ferry Building. Open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, there is so much to see (street performers provide background noise), buy (endless amounts of fresh, organic, and artisanal food products a.k.a. foodie heaven), and learn (vendors love talking your ear off about their different trades–listen to them). Pick out wine from the Wine Merchant and cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, then enjoy on the Embarcadero for a carefree afternoon.
- Embrace your DC-given appreciation for brunch and eat at Plow. This Portrero Hill hotspot is always busy, so expect to wait. Once you’re in, order The Plow ($15) breakfast. Perfect for your indecision, it has a little taste of everything including their renowned and fluffy lemon ricotta pancakes.
- Be active in one of the fittest cities in the country. Hike a trail in the Presidio and snag a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, or bike across (pray it’s not too windy). I took a great class at ODC Dance Commons, where instruction is offered to all levels and types of dancers. Really though, just walking through any neighborhood with the word “Hill” in its name will give you buns of steel.
- Save some energy and make your way to the top of Coit Tower. Sitting atop Telegraph Hill, it offers an excellent panoramic view of the city and beyond. However, the stair climb along Filbert Street is the best part as it weaves through the gorgeous gardens of quaint million-dollar homes.
- For a classic deli experience, head to Molinari Deli ironically located on the edge of Chinatown. Serving handmade sandwiches stuffed with the best quality meats, this Italian haven also sells a variety of imported olive oils, wines and other products. To avoid looking like an out-of-towner, take a number as soon as you walk in, pick out your own sandwich bread in the back, and be ready when your number is called to keep things moving.
- Take an ice cream break at Bi-Rite Market on Divisadero Street. A long list of innovative and seasonal flavors awaits you, such as brown sugar with ginger caramel swirl and roasted banana. This shop is also a small grocery, so you can shop for locally-sourced foods and try samples at the cut-to-order cheese counter while enjoying your sweet treat.
- Stroll down Haight Street and drink microbrews and cask ales at Magnolia Pub. This bar has a cool, vintage English vibe with hints of old paint and fixtures peeking through the décor. Sit at the long communal table, strike up conversation with your neighbors, and try the house beers made in the basement brewery (half-pours are available if you’re a lightweight).
- Soak up the sun in any of the green spaces around the city. Kick it with a young, hip crowd in Dolores Park on the weekends, or take a more serene stroll through Golden Gate Park (unless it’s 4/20–watch out for hippies). Alamo Square is also worth a lounge; the wild trees and hilltop views of downtown are much more interesting than the Painted Ladies adjacent to it.
- Come full circle and enjoy a fabulous dinner at Delfina in the Mission. Though Flour + Water is the hot little ingenue of Italian cuisine right now, Delfina has been around for over a decade and continues to stay deliciously relevant. The menu changes often, but permanent must-haves include the grilled calamari over a white bean salad ($11) and the roasted Mary’s chicken ($22). If you’re lucky enough to catch the gnocchi al ragu ($16) on the menu, order it: your life will change forever.
Feature photo: ODC Dance Commons
Tartine’s Morning Buns
2 pounds croissant dough
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 medium oranges
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, melted
extra white sugar for coating muffin cups and for rolling finished buns
Courtesy of 7×7.com
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. Mixture will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or in the freezer for a month.
Prepare a 12-muffin capacity muffin tin by generously brushing bottom and sides of each cup with melted butter. Put a teaspoon of sugar in each muffin cup and swirl around to evenly coat. Tap out excess sugar.
Roll out croissant dough into a 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch-by-18-inch rectangle, with the long side in front of you. Brush dough with melted butter, and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over the whole rectangle—the sugar layer should be about 1/8-inch thick. You may have some of the mixture left over.
Starting with the long side of the dough, roll rectangle into a cylinder. Cut cylinder into 1 1/2-inch discs. Fit each disc into the buttered and sugared muffin tins so that the swirl pattern is visible on top. You may have some extra rolled bun dough left over or just choose to bake fewer buns (if you do, cut them all and freeze individually on a pan). Once frozen, place in a resealable plastic bag and store in freezer.
To bake buns that are frozen: Prepare pan as above, let buns defrost in the prepared cups (this will depend on how warm your kitchen is, about 45 minutes), then continue with step 5.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let rolls rise in a warm but not hot place for approximately 45 minutes. The rising time will vary depending on how cold your dough was to start and how warm a place they are put to rise. They should rise approximately to 1 1/2 times their original size. Place the muffin tin on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or foil to catch any drips while baking.
Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour or longer, depending on your oven. When done, the tops should be well browned and the sugar melted. Remove pan from oven and immediately turn buns out onto a clean baking sheet or work surface. Place pan in sink and cover with hot water (it will be easier to clean later). Let the buns set for 5 to 10 minutes, then toss in a bowl with some sugar to coat. These buns are best eaten the day they are made. If eating the next day, heat them up first in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes before serving. Yields 12 buns.
Lisha grew up in her potty-mouthed grandma’s soulful kitchen, asked for a bread-maker on her 11th birthday, loves whiskey and once ate a whole spit-roasted guinea pig in Ecuador. Lisha has been a GMF contributor since 2011, and now lives in Oakland, CA, where the intersection of food, identity, and community has sparked her interest in sustainable and equitable dining. When she’s not working as a finance professional and dance instructor, Lisha is side-hustling as a biscuit entrepreneur.